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Lefty Or Righty? Research Finds Bees Also Have Flight Preferences

4 November 2017, 8:40 am EDT By Athena Chan Tech Times
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Gigantic swarm of bees forces people to duck for cover

Researchers find that honeybees could also be lefties or righties. Results show that bees still have individual preferences despite being incredibly social creatures.

Lefty Or Righty?

Humans could either be right-handed or left-handed, and other animals such as cats, dogs, and primates also display handedness or a preference for sides. A new study by researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute of the University of Queensland shows that honeybees can also be lefties or righties.

As it turns out, some foraging honeybees display a preference for the left side, some for the right side, while others show no preference for either side. What's more, these preferences varied from individual to individual, showing interesting characteristics of such social creatures.

Individual Biases In The Obstacle

To gather their findings, researchers presented an individual honeybee with a barrier that has two possible tunnel passages to go through. At the end of the 120-centimeter tunnels were sucrose treats to lure the bees into going through.

During the first test, the bees were presented with two tunnels of different sizes, one was narrow while the other was twice as wide. Interestingly albeit unsurprisingly, the bees chose the wider tunnel 80 percent of the time. This suggests that the bees are able to distinguish which paths are safer and quicker to pass through.

On the second run of the test, the honeybees were presented with two tunnels of equal sizes. This time, the individual biases were revealed. Forty-five percent of the bees displayed side biases, with half of them preferring the right side and the other half preferring the left. The remaining 55 percent of bees did not display any side bias.

Biases Revealed By Flight Time

To support the idea of bees having individual side preferences, researchers also measured the flight times of biased bees before making a decision on which tunnel to take. What they found was that the bees took a longer time in deciding which tunnel to take when their side biases were toward the narrower opening.

Evidently, the bees were facing a decision on whether to take the easier side or the preferred but narrower side.

Individual Bias

As the bees were tested individually, their choices and side biases are individually and independently made. That said, having a swarm of bees with left, right, and no biases is beneficial to the bee colony especially when they are moving through a thicket of branches. This ensures that they would not block or slow each other down.

The current study suggests that although honeybees are incredibly social creatures, they still have individual behaviors and preferences.

The study is published in PLOS One.

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